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Water-Related News

Hurricane Ian left millions of gallons of spilled wastewater, dirty runoff in its wake

The release of at least 17 million gallons of wastewater into Manatee County waters in the first 24 hours after Hurricane Ian would normally be a standout event for those who keep a close eye on water quality.

But it’s just one of many pieces in the pollution puzzle after Ian clobbered Florida.

“It’s not good — but it’s been dwarfed by all the rainfall we’ve gotten,” said Dave Tomasko, executive director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program. “We believe we’ve had multiple tens of billions of gallons of runoff” entering Sarasota Bay.

As researchers start to piece together the storm’s environmental toll, some conclusions already are clear.

For one, Tampa Bay was largely spared the worst. But rainfall that fell over the lower bay, about six inches compared to Sarasota Bay’s 11 or more, still could fuel poorer water quality conditions in the lower watershed, according to Ed Sherwood, executive director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

In the first day after landfall, enough wastewater spilled into the Lower Tampa Bay watershed from Manatee County to fill more than 25 Olympic swimming pools.